Government wins vote, farmers perish

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Guest Author: P. Chengal Reddy, Chief Adviser, Consortium of Indian Farmers Associations

06 December 2021, New Delhi: PM Modi’s withdrawal of 3 reforms has set in motion the “Produce and Perish syndrome“ in the Indian farm sector. Indian economy is set to face serious problems in the next 10 years to come. Demonetisation and covid has caused serious upheavals amongst all sections. The service and industrial sectors have faced serious problems. Fortunately, there are no deaths due to starvation. With sufficient food stocks, the Center and States have provided food to everyone. The revival of the economy is now dependent on the service and industrial sector. The Indian Government is pumping huge money but getting back on track for economic growth, restoring employment and coming back to normalcy in the next 5 years looks difficult.

The solutions to revive the economy is through farm sector policy changes. The political parties, both ruling and opposition, are both ignorant of the opportunities. Farmers have assured the nation of food security, yet they remain insecure. The cost of cultivation is going up with reducing income. The increase in production is only due to increased irrigation, and free electricity in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and other states.

Productivity in India is stagnated in all the crops since the 1990’s. Wastage is high and value addition is negligible. Products have no quality or traceability. Farmers do not understand international standards of traceability or other attributes of a good produce for the market like fruit size, color, taste.

Indian Farmers are confused as to why their produce are not getting profitable price?

In 21st century, agriculture is no more a cultural activity. It is an enterprise that requires latest technologies, investments, and extremely efficient management in use of inputs and wastage reduction. Production must have a long-term connectivity with markets. Every product must have branding and traceability. This will help Indian farmers fetch a profitable price.
If you observe, imported Apples, Kiwi and other fruit in India have a traceability label on them. But Indian mango, banana and sweet lime has no traceability label. Long term production and marketing planning must be done to achieve global competitiveness and to realise profitable prices.

The pathetic condition of farmers can be attributed to the failures of institutions of ICAR, APEDA, NABARD, Banks, GEAC. Lack of coordination between Union Ministries and State Departments. Agriculture research has not been given sufficient importance by the leadership of the country when compared to other areas such as Space and Atomic Energy. The Prime Minister has an economic adviser, defense adviser, health adviser, security adviser and many other committees to share their wisdom. The same is not the case when we talk about the farmers.

The farm laws have been withdrawn. We are aware that new investment will not be coming into Indian agriculture. There will be hardly any value addition or establishment of processing industries due to the continuation of the essential commodities act and problems of contract farming act. Increased productivity will create pressure on political parties in all the states who will put pressure on the Prime Minister. The politics of procurement will continue to lead. Even after Uttar Pradesh and Punjab elections, Mr Modi may not dare to go ahead with any farm reforms.

To add to farmers’ misfortune, the Supreme Court of India had appointed a committee to seek opinion from farmers and others over the laws. The report was submitted in April 2021 and has not yet been made public and the decision was never made.

The political farmers in Delhi borders have succeeded. They will be rewarded by getting into the political arena. For real farmers this distress will continue. Our hope that the modern technologies and huge investments will come to the farm sector will remain incomplete. Farmers having been betrayed by UPA government for not implementing Dr. M.S. Swaminathan Committee report. Farmers have opted for Mr. Modi who made many promises and assurances. Now Mr. Modi has also let us down. With all the constitutional institutions betraying the farmers, who should they look up to is the my question?

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